Molecular mimicry and clonal deletion: A fresh look

Noel R. Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In this article, I trace the historic background of clonal deletion and molecular mimicry, two major pillars underlying our present understanding of autoimmunity and autoimmune disease. Clonal deletion originated as a critical element of the clonal selection theory of antibody formation in order to explain tolerance of self. If we did have complete clonal deletion, there would be major voids, the infamous "black holes", in our immune repertoire. For comprehensive, protective adaptive immunity, full deletion is necessarily a rare event. Molecular mimicry, the sharing of epitopes among self and non-self antigens, is extraordinary common and provides the evidence that complete deletion of self-reactive clones is rare. If molecular mimicry were not common, protective adaptive immunity could not be all-encompassing. By taking a fresh look at these two processes together we can envision their evolutionary basis and understand the need for regulatory devices to prevent molecular mimicry from progressing to autoimmune disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-76
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Adaptive immunity
  • Autoimmunity
  • Clonal deletion
  • Immunoregulation
  • Molecular mimicry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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